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Monday, August 5, 2019


It's been awhile since I saw the previous entry in this series, THE SWAN PRINCESS: ROYALLY UNDERCOVER. and I couldn't quite remember why I'd liked it so much. But just a few minutes into the current sequel, THE SWAN PRINCESS: KINGDOM OF MUSIC (Sony, 2019), was enough to remind me.

For a start, this is some gorgeous computer animation even for a diehard fan of old-fashioned cel animation such as myself.  The settings are all beautiful and well-photographed, creatively directed with a constantly moving camera that's well choreographed with the action.

This, along with the vibrant, often exhilarating colors, gives every scene a pleasing kineticism that I found especially fun to watch.

More importantly, the characters themselves are attractively designed and expressive, conveying all the necessary emotions which are the foundation of what turns out to be a deeply romantic story (unlike the more adventuresome bent of the previous film) with much of the same warmth and wonder of a Miyazaki film, which this reminded me of at times.

Princess Odette and Prince Derek are back, as is their adopted daughter Alise whose upcoming coming-of-age party forms the centerpiece of the story. She's still smitten with our old friend Lucas, a commoner who raises tulips, but he'll have a serious rival when one of the candidates to sing at Alise's ball is handsome Prince Li from Cathay.

Alise and Li's initial mutual hostility soon turns to infatuation, prompting the jealous Lucas to seek the help of royal ally Lord Rogers for some quick ballroom dance lessons that will help him win her heart on the dance floor.

More romantic complications arise when Li's sister, Mei Li, seeks out the help of Swan Princess Odette to help break the spell that has turned her lover, Chen, into a flying, fire-breathing dragon.  In classic tragic romance style, Chen can only assume human form for a few precious minutes at sundown, during which the young lovers enjoy a few brief, desperate moments together.

How these two intertwining romantic subplots are worked out forms the jumping off point for the kind of emotional drama that's not just for the kids in the audience but the adults watching with them as well. Indeed, these stories of young people on the brink of maturity and all the heartache it can bring should prove engaging and relatable to any ages.

In the meantime, the film is aglow with sharp, witty dialogue and clever sight gags performed by lovable supporting characters such as Lord Rogers and Queen Uberta, Li's paternal servant Ru, Puffin the wise bird, and the supercilious French frog Jean-Bob, who, along with Rogers and Umberta, forms the judging panel for the contest to decide which of the hopefuls from countries all over the world gets to sing at Alise's ball.

Resembling a royal episode of "America's Got Talent", these elaborate singing auditions elevate the film's musical quotient although most of the songs are poppy, auto-tuned fluff designed to make Li's two tuneful numbers sound even more substantial in comparison.

His second song, "Goodbye", is one of the emotional highpoints and a major reason why the story should appeal not just to kids and tweeners, but to any adult who enjoys an opulently-staged musical of this caliber.

The DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English, French, and Spanish Dolby 5.1 sound and English subtitles.  Extras include two sing-a-long segments, trailers for other Sony releases, and a featurette in which director Richard Rich demonstrates his very hands-on technique of acting out each role for the animators to use as a guide.  Picture and sound quality are excellent. 

With THE SWAN PRINCESS: KINGDOM OF MUSIC, there's always something dazzling happening to keep us interested from start to finish.  And along with its more joyfully fanciful elements, the story is both refreshingly mature and relatable enough to stimulate youthful minds without insulting their burgeoning intelligence.

Buy it at Amazon

Format: NTSC
Language: English
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
DVD Release Date: August 6, 2019
Run Time: 83 minutes


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